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Pathlight Magazine

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A quarterly literary journal featuring translations of the best contemporary Chinese fiction and poetry.

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FrogShuyu KongLi YuanshengJiang YunPatigul

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Li Yuansheng

Jiang Yun

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Beijing Book Fair: Literary Salons

For the second year in a row, Paper Republic is working with the Beijing Interational Book Fair to organize a small literary festival around the fair itself. In Beijing, August 20–28. Click here for this year's program.

Read Paper Republic

Between July of 2015 and July of 2016, Paper Republic publishing one free-to-read short translation on the web every week. Click here to see the full list.

Recent Posts

Wang Anyi receives 2017 Newman Prize for Chinese Literature

From the Newman Prize homepage:

While the deliberations were tough, after a process of positive elimination voting Wang Anyi emerged as the winner. Wang Anyi’s nominator, Dai Jinhua (戴锦华, Peking University), writes in her nomination statement: “Over the past thirty or more years, Wang Anyi has continuously transformed her writing and altered her literary directions to produce a spectacular array of works, through which she has created a sort of reality of Chinese-language literature, a city in literature, or even a nation in literature.”

Wang Anyi's story "Dark Alley" (translated by Canaan Morse) was the 47th release of Read Paper Republic Season 1.

By David Haysom, September 26 '16, 4:08p.m.

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PEN Presents Open for Submissions

English PEN has this program called "PEN Presents", where they provide translators with funding to promote books they want to translate, and this year they're accepting applications from East and South-East Asia. From their announcement

PEN Presents aims to help publishers to discover – and publish – the most exciting books from around the world, whilst supporting emerging translators in their development as advocates for international literature. Each year the initiative presents six exciting books by contemporary authors, recommended by literary translators, which have not yet been acquired for English-language publication. Each round of PEN Presents focusses on a different region of the world.

They're working with the Asia Literary Review for this year's program – see this link for application instructions. The deadline is December 5, 2016.

By Eric Abrahamsen, September 23 '16, 12:31a.m.

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Chinese Literary Magazine Coming in Arabic

Ahramonline reports:

An Arabic edition of the magazine Chinese Literature has been launched during the Beijing International Book Fair and will be distributed for free starting October as a periodical magazine issued every three months in partnership with the Egyptian cultural newspaper Al-Kahera.

The magazine, which is already published in 10 languages and comprises fiction, poetry and art, will be published under the name Beacons of the Silk Road, and will introduce contemporary Chinese literature to Arabic readers.

I'm wondering: Is this the newest edition of Pathlight?

By Bruce Humes, September 2 '16, 6:59p.m.

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Foetal Narrators

Nutshell, Ian McEwan’s new novel, is narrated by a sentient foetus who listens in on the Hamlet inspired machinations of his mother’s plot to murder his father. In a Guardian interview, McEwan says he is not aware of any story yet written from the perspective of an unborn child:

“And yet it seemed obvious once I started it.” The idea came to him one day from nowhere, while he was daydreaming. “Suddenly there appeared before me the opening sentence of the novel, which I don’t think I’ve changed, apart from adding ‘So’ in front of it: ‘So, here I am upside down in a woman.’ I thought, who on Earth would say such a thing? Then I immediately thought it would be a lovely rhetorical challenge to write a novel from the point of view of a foetus. The idea struck me as so silly that I just couldn’t resist it.”

Well, 李洱 Li Er, for one, has beaten him to it, with his story 《你在哪》 (translated by Joshua Dyer as “Where Are You?” in the Summer 2015 issue of Pathlight). Here’s how it begins:

Where are you, she asks.

I’ve been here all along. She must be completely blind now. I reach out to touch her. I feel her chest and notice her heartbeat is irregular, sometimes stopping altogether. She lets me touch her ears. I find a thick, sticky pus leaking out.

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By David Haysom, August 28 '16, 8:33a.m.

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Interview with Xue Yiwei

Reading and books have played a huge role in my life since 1974, when I was 10 years old and the Cultural Revolution was still (underway). That year, through an “underground channel,” I got access to Western classics for the first time. Five years later, the Chinese door was wide open and all kinds of books were flooding in. The influence of existentialism and modernist literature began to exert (itself) on the younger generation.
—interview with 薛忆沩 Xue Yiwei in the Montreal Gazette.

Ken Liu's translation of the Xue Yiwei story "The Taxi Driver" appeared in the Winter 2012 issue of Pathlight. "God's Chosen Photographer", translated by Roddy Flagg, will appear in a forthcoming issue.

Shenzheners, a collection of short stories by Xue Yiwei (translated by Darryl Sterk) is out next month.

By David Haysom, August 27 '16, 5:48a.m.

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BIBF Literary Salons: Midpoint

So we're about halfway through our program of literary events surrounding the 2016 Beijing International Book Fair, which so far has been great fun. Last year, the first year Paper Republic did these "Literary Salons", we were too exhausted to post about this at all, let alone halfway through the program, so I suppose this is progress! To me, it's clear what "progress" consists of: more hands on deck. Last year it was just Dongmei and me; this year we've added Min Jie as our third PR employee, and have a team of three awesome interns, Lirong, Yutong, and Mingjun. The whole thing is much more under control, and it's possible to actually enjoy ourselves!

I'll post a few pictures below, but first a few memorable moments:

  1. Putting Alejandro Zambra, the Chilean cultural attaché, and the Chilean ambassador on a stage which, several weeks after we booked it, was turned into part of the children's book zone. The three of them discussed Chilean history and literature against a Finding Nemo backdrop, while the audience sat on colorful little squishy Tic-Tac stools. Zambra is a good sport.
  2. A cocktail party at the Beijing Bookworm. The Bookworm of course runs their international literary festival every March, a much larger and more long-running event than what we're doing here. But the two things are complimentary in spirit, and I'm really glad we were able to work together for the fun part of this week.
  3. Acting as impromptu bodyguard for Nobel laureate Svetlana Alexievich yesterday. Most audience members at the fairground were well-behaved, but a handful had obviously come because – hell or high water – they were going to get a Nobel laureate's signature, even if they had to tackle her. I wasn't expecting tussling to be a part of our literary festival, but hey, it was exciting.

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By Eric Abrahamsen, August 25 '16, 11:30p.m.

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Fifty years since the death of Lao She

lao she
Image from 凤凰文化.

This week marks fifty years since 老舍 Lao She committed suicide by throwing himself into Taiping lake after he was attacked by Red Guards. 凤凰文化 (the Culture branch of Phoenix New Media) has put together a retrospective featuring video interviews with figures such as 葛献挺 Ge Xianting, another member of the Beijing Literary Federation who was present that day, and assorted opinion pieces:

Fifty years on, the people personally involved in that famous “Red August” are now aging or have passed away. If the truth exists only in their memories, then that generation’s departure signifies the loss of a piece of history. Lao She’s death becomes a diluted legend.

In 1984, Orwell wrote: “He who controls the past, controls the future.” If it is not too late, we hope to look back on history, and reawaken memories. On the August 23rd of fifty years ago, what violence and humiliation was Lao She subjected to, to make him step into the icy lake in the midnight hours of the 24th?

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By David Haysom, August 25 '16, 5:19a.m.

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Hao Jingfang wins 2016 Hugo Award for Best Novelette

ken liu and hao jingfang
Translator Ken Liu and author 郝景芳 Hao Jingfang – image from Hao Jingfang's Weibo.

At Uncanny Magazine:
"Folding Beijing", the story that won the award (beating out Stephen King in the process...)
An interview with Hao Jingfang.
"I Want to Write a History of Inequality" – a guest post by Hao Jingfang (written after being shortlisted for the Hugo).

All three of the above were translated by Ken Liu, whose forthcoming collection, Invisible Planets, which will also feature the story.

On Youtube:
A video of the moment the award was announced, plus the acceptance speeches of Hao Jingfang (in which she expresses her disappointment that she won't be able to attend George R. R. Martin's Hugo Losers party) and Ken Liu.

On The Economist:
Keeping Up With the Wangs: an analysis of the inequality Hao Jingfang explores in her story (published after it appeared on the Hugo shortlist).

By David Haysom, August 22 '16, 12:16p.m.

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News: New Possibilities for Old Literary Journals

From Bloomberg Businessweek (Chinese edition):

The literary journal Harvest has an online “youth” edition. At the end of April they announced on their official Weibo account that literary enthusiasts could now submit writing through an app called “Hangju” (行距). Furthermore, editors from Harvest would be using the app to offer guidance to writers. In its first ten days online, Hangju received over 600 submissions, the majority of which were passed on to Harvest. Author Wang Ruohan (汪若菡), recipient of the 2011 People’s Literature Novella Award, was amongst those who submitted work. He said the chance to get input from literary editors was his main reason for using the platform. “Writing is like navigating an ocean,” he says, especially for short story writers, who can lose their bearings completely when embarking on a novel. “I got to 60,000 characters in my first full-length novel before realising something had gone wrong, and there was nothing for it but to chuck it in the trash.” There is no more pressing issue when attempting to write than finding the guidance of a reliable editor.

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By David Haysom, August 10 '16, 1:25a.m.

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Paper Republic vs. Kubin, the Literaturkritiker Lovers of Chinese Lit Love to Diss

I'm in shock! For one, the official Beijing Int'l Book Fair has already uploaded at least a partial list of events open to the public, albeit in Chinese only. In the past, that generally happened on the first day of the fair, or later.

But even more eye-popping is the list of speakers for this (no doubt) bilingual forum on translation:

字里行间中国文学翻译家沙龙

时间:827日星期六14:00-15:30

地点书展作家交流中心作家交流区

嘉宾

陈安娜瑞典高产翻译家)(Anna Chen)

顾彬著名汉学家,翻译家,作家)(Wolfgang Kubin)

埃里克·亚布拉罕森中英文学译者、Paper Republic 创始人)(Eric Abrahamsen)

报名链接:http://form.mikecrm.com/iWsUgu (never mind that this link doesn't work . . .)

For a classic Kubin interview re: his views on contemporary Chinese lit, see this one in English published just two days ago: No innovative culture without contact

By Bruce Humes, August 9 '16, 9:31p.m.

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It's Women In Translation Month - and Paper Republic has been busy...

August is Women in Translation Month – and we're recommending some excellent women writing in Chinese.
From June 2015 to June 2016, the Read Paper Republic team published a short story/essay/poem translated from Chinese, one a week for a year. For last year’s #WITmonth we published four pieces written by women and translated by women (nos 7-10). The rest of the time, we didn’t pay too much attention to the gender of the writer. So it’s cheering to see that over the entire year, of the 53 pieces we published, 22 were written by women. They are all available online – free to view. Thank you to all our authors and translators.
Also , in May 2016, we drew up a list for The Literary Hub, of 10 CHINESE WOMEN WHOSE WRITING SHOULD BE TRANSLATED: WRITING FROM MAINLAND CHINA, HONG KONG, AND TAIWAN. Read it here: http://lithub.com/10-chinese-women-whose-writing-should-be-translated/

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By Nicky Harman, August 1 '16, 11:37a.m.

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Foyle Bookshop interview with Xinran and Xu Xiaobin

"Iron Girls to Leftover Women: What Next for Chinese Women?" is a blog I've just written for Foyles, a mega-bookshop in London (and elsewhere) with an impressive website including regular blogs. I approached them because I knew they'd ordered some copies of Xu Xiaobin (徐小斌)'s Crystal Wedding and I wanted to do some promotion for the book. But it's hard to interest the general reader in a (virtually) unknown author and book, so I decided to pick up on the piece Xu Xiaobin wrote recently for PEN Atlas, "A sea of red flags" and write about women. Xinran (薛欣然) has written a lot about Chinese women too, and was happy to be included...and so I ended up with two nice interviews. I have no idea if it will shift more books by both these authors off the shelves, but it felt like a worthwhile thing to do......

By Nicky Harman, June 25 '16, 3:47a.m.

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